Pinning Intent: Why A Pinterest Ads API Makes Sense For Marketers

PinterestAPIPinterest has always been a little different than the rest of the social pack –primarily because pinned products means pinned intent. The platform is inherently commercial.

When Pinterest debuted price alerts in early August, it appeared to be a move on the visual social network’s part to help retailers reactivate purchase intent based on items consumers had previously pinned, should an item they covet go on sale.

Pinterest had data to prove its prior release of “rich pins,” embedded with links, reviews, products and the like, had higher click-through-rates than standard pins. Now Pinterest is amping up personalization efforts with the debut of “content hubs,” the first one being Pinterest for Teachers, with more to come.

“Pinterest is a discovery platform. If I can narrow down these cohorts of people and better understand similarities between different types of people, I can probably make better recommendations,” commented Apu Gupta, cofounder & CEO of Curalate, a Pinterest and Instagram marketing analytics platform. “The side benefit of being really good at discovery and recommendation is you’re going to be, by default, much better at targeting.”

When Pinterest launched price drop notifications, a company spokesperson told AdExchanger that the early results of rich-pin product CTRs “demonstrate how valuable structured data can be.” As far as monetization plans were concerned, “we don’t have any plans to announce at this time.”

Money-Making Pinterest?

All fingers point toward a logical next-step for Pinterest – an API for marketing developers. Pinterest brought on the former lead of Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer Program, John Yi, in June to head up marketing developer partnerships in-house. The company also hired a head of partner marketing in the winter, who states in his LinkedIn profile that “he’s leading the efforts to help businesses put Pinterest to work.”

“The big question mark in my mind, from a monetization standpoint, is will this ultimately be an end game toward clearing the transaction on Pinterest or is this part of a larger move toward advertising?” Gupta said. “It’ll be interesting to see if they go down both avenues or only one. I wonder, is there enough money in just clearing the transaction? I would think the advertising side is a much more powerful area to be in.”

How far down the monetization path will Pinterest go?  The company grew its 50 million monthly active users by assiduously focusing on its user experience. This, many argue, is where it most excels.

Kyla Brennan, founder & CEO of Pinterest marketing and technology company HelloSociety, which represents more than 300 of the platform’s top pinners with an average following of 1.8 million through its services, said that from a marketer’s perspective, rich pins have been “the biggest thing for brands [on Pinterest yet] and I think it [was because] it was this natural sort of implementation.”

Though Brennan said she did not want to speculate, “I do think they will have an API for partners and I think there’s a ton of opportunity there if it’s done correctly. It’s going to be very methodical, if they do it, and I think they’ll do it right the first time around.”

The company, which has executed Pinterest campaigns on behalf of brands like HauteLook and Buick, has seen that “once a brand runs one campaign, the results prove themselves and we see larger and larger portions of budget” allocated to Pinterest, she added. “It’s totally different than Facebook or Twitter or any other network.”

Beyond Engagement

According to a recent study by research think tank L2, 83.8% of “prestige” or luxury brands are active on Pinterest. The average prestige brand maintains a presence on seven social platforms, and there has been a marked shift from “growing communities to engaging and monetizing them.” While the initial stages of social media were about showing up and experimenting, organizations will increasingly look to find points of variance among different networks, the study indicates.

“Sophisticated brands are on social, but they have been getting trained on how to spend on media and how to buy reach and buying reach is a far more predictable thing than relying on virality and things like that,” Gupta said. “The challenge becomes, with these networks, if you count by reach, then you have to rely on more traditional engagement or you have to pay for things that are a proxy for reach, whether it’s a pin-to-win contest or something like that.”

The issue there, for a brand, is, it could spend on a pin-to-win contest and won’t have any clear idea of outcomes. “At least, when you’re buying reach, you’re buying a designated size of audience or whatever it might be,” he added.

John DeLuca, social media manager for digital marketing agency Fusion92, noted that it’s very simple to manage a Pinterest account, but marketers are “hamstrung when it comes to tapping in to the potential of the network.” With an API, it would “open the floodgates for innovative marketers,” namely to be able to hook up Pinterest activity to social media management platforms like HootSuite and Radian6.

API access would also make Pinterest a much more attractive platform for promotions. Wildfire by Google and Hip Digital have been successful, he said, because they provide marketers a promotions platform that work across Facebook and Twitter. A Pinterest API could help expand the types of content for pinners while opening new doors for marketing and analytics firms who could contribute to the interest graph, said Danny Maloney, cofounder & CEO of PinLeague.

The future, for Pinterest, will be concocting the right mix of consumer engagement and smart business acumen. As Gupta points out, “I don’t pin The Gap. I pin the jeans or the sweater that The Gap makes. Things that are very specific to the brand. As a brand, I now know why somebody likes me. That granularity is something we’ve never had on a social network before and I think that is going to create a whole new type of advertising opportunity.”


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